A New Directive: Doing More with the Same
Yet, it seems like only yesterday that IT departments were flooded with costly initiatives. Corporations were preparing for Y2K, building infrastructure to support the new digital e-business environment, fighting traditional virus outbreaks, and working ceaselessly toward setting up the systems and processes needed to demonstrate compliance with a host of challenging industry and government regulations.
Its not that CIOs no longer have anything to worry about. Its just that today, IT organizations are much better positioned to meet such demands and no longer are relegated to offering only reactive responses.
For those CIOs who find themselves in a position to finally launch IT initiatives that are proactive as opposed to reactive, the question is where to begin.
Though they are not new, there are two areas where technology has improved to the point where more really can be done with the same: automation and virtualization. Another difference is CIOs are on the crest of finally having the time and the resources to fully pursue these two options.
Thanks in part to the growing numbers of tools now on the market, automation and virtualization enable organizations to make better use of resources at hand and, in turn, improve the business without compromising the bottom line.
For example, traditional IT has built simple scripts and tools to help manage the data center. An IT technician sits at a terminal in the data center, kicks off a script, and starts a batch job. Or a technician sends a command to the backup tape system to pull a certain tape and begins running a backup. A similar scenario occurs when performing regular maintenance on Oracle databases or storage systems, when deploying patches across the enterprise, and more.
By automating these and other tasks, organizations can greatly reduce the burden on IT and, in turn, keep costs under control. Automation can start small by automating certain tasks and components.
For a more system-wide, holistic solution for data center management, organizations can take advantage of a growing number of solutions that, through integration, take automation beyond components and tasks and include applications and higher-level data center systems.
These tools make compliance with SOX (Sarbanes-Oxley Act), FISMA (Federal Information Security Management Act), and HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) a more proactive task even in the most resource-constrained environments. These types of transformative data center automation solutions can address a number of items on every IT directors wish list, from controlling administration costs to keeping applications running, delivering appropriate service levels, ensuring technical compliance, and optimizing asset utilization.
Then theres virtualization. While not new, virtualization of both server applications and storage has become an effective mechanism for IT managers to not only provide redundancy for mission-critical applications and data but also to extend limited resources within overcrowded data centers.The benefits of virtualization are not difficult to imagine. Common wisdom has it that only a small percentage of the potential computing resources of any system are being utilized at any one time. That means the rest is not being used.
But virtualization can change all that. In a virtualized environment, resources or requests for services are separate from their underlying physical delivery. Virtualization puts a layer of abstraction between applications and the computing, storage, and networking hardware upon which those applications run.
Because resources are pooled and used as a unit, existing assets are used more efficiently and IT no longer needs to keep buying processors and memory in order to meet business objectives.
Most importantly, vendors are now delivering more mature virtualization tools that not only operate across a variety of platforms and devices but also provide extensive management and availability features and functionality.
Admittedly, it will take some time for CIOs to adapt to doing more with the same. After all, its a far cry from the past few years of being tasked with investing only in tools aimed at meeting urgent, proximate, and pressing problems.
Implemented independently, automation and virtualization can serve as a good place to start to for organizations looking to stay in line with stabilized budgets. Implemented together, these technologies can enable organizations to reduce capital expenditures, avoid unnecessary IT costs, relieve the burden on IT, and optimize their investments with a proactive approach toward the future.
David Thompson is CIO of IT security vendor Symantec. Prior to joining Symantec, Thompson was senior vice president and CIO for Oracle and oversaw the Global Information Technology group.